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BEPPLE: Kamloops council playing as a team in request for federal panel review of Ajax Mine

Image Credit: Compilation/Jennifer Stahn
November 27, 2015 - 7:30 AM

Politics is definitely not hockey, but Kamloops Mayor Peter Milobar went back to his roots this week and executed some brilliant stickhandling. Way back in 1989 and ’90, Milobar played a season of junior hockey in the B.C. Hockey League playing for the Penticton Knights and Nanaimo Clippers. While he’s now more of a curler, there’s still a lot of hockey in how he deals with the business of council.

Take for example the latest decision of council to send Milobar to Ottawa to lobby the Environment Minister for a federal panel review of the proposed Ajax Mine. Many see the federal panel review as more strict than the current provincial process, and those who oppose the mine see it as a possible way to halt the mine altogether. Milobar has gone to Ottawa multiple times under the previous Conservative government to ask for a federal review, and has been told no each time. But with a change in government comes change in direction. Opponents to the mine are hoping the new Liberal federal government will be more supportive of a federal review.

Hence, Coun. Dieter Dudy put forward a motion Tuesday that Milobar should go to Ottawa.

At times, there has been less than unanimity around the council table. But on this issue, all of council was on side for sending Milobar to Ottawa to lobby the Liberals. By supporting the trip, the councillors who have voiced opposition to the mine, Cavers, Dudy, Lange and Walsh, could be seen as doing something for the anti-Ajax cause. For them, there is the hope that a federal process would reject the proposal as being too much risk based on its proximity to Kamloops.

For the mayor and other councillors, Christian, Singh, Spina, and Wallace, there is nothing to lose by giving their support for the trip as well. All have stated they want to see the outcome of the environmental review before giving a solid endorsement of the proposal. By sending Milobar, they’re reaffirming the process should be as robust as necessary.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Milobar suggested he be accompanied by Coun. Tina Lange. It may seem an odd choice to some given Lange’s outspoken opposition to the mine, but given Milobar’s hockey background it makes perfect sense.

If Milobar had gone on his own, or if he had taken one of the councillors who have remained publicly neutral, who are waiting for the review to come back, those who oppose the mine would feel their concerns were not being represented.

When Milobar choose Lange, he silenced criticism that opponents’ concerns would not be heard.

Councillor Lange has been an outspoken critic of the proposed Ajax mine since it was first proposed. She’s raised concerns about clean air and the reputation of the city as reasons for not endorsing the mine. Anyone who knows Lange knows that she won’t mince words with the federal government.

Milobar didn’t just silence critics of the mine by choosing to take Lange with him. He got council skating as a team again. And it’s something council needs to be doing more of. There have been a number of issues, such as the pesticide bylaw, which divided council. At the same time, the recent failed performing arts council showed the council to be weak in promoting the idea and selling it to the electorate. It’s not that individual councillors can’t have differing opinions, but once a course has been set, everyone needs to be rowing in the same direction.

By taking Lange along, Milobar has brought the various factions on council together to work on a common issue. He’s showed that people with differing opinions can still work to find a common solution.

Hopefully the council will continue to work better together as a team going forward as well.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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